Plastic Free July – Part 3: Glass Food Storage

This is another one of those things that doesn’t exactly have a direct, 1 to 1 replacement. There are a lot of different ways to use glass containers instead of plastic, but most of those are for replacing plastic that is already reusable. Initially, when I went looking for these, it was with a specific purpose in mind.

We used to get ground beef from someone we knew that raised cows. It was great because we could get it in a 1/4 of the whole cow instead of a whole or half that most people that raise and butcher cows allow. The last time we did this though, we realized we really don’t eat enough to use it all up before it starts to show signs of freezer burn. And we were eating less and less as time goes on.

The convenience of having those 1 pound packages wrapped in freezer paper in my freezer at all times was an amazing thing, though. The problem is that getting meat from the grocery store meant that I’d have to either freeze it in the packaging it came in or package it myself. The store packaging was either a plastic wrapped foam tray or a very lightly wrapped bundle in butcher paper. The first option isn’t something I like to do. The second, is better but still not ideal. The way I’d have stored it in the past would be wrapped in plastic wrap for one layer and then an additional layer of foil. Again, not the option I want if I’m trying to reduce plastic.

When I was looking for alternatives to plastic zipper bags, I ran across people talking about using glass. There were other options, like silicone bags, but I liked the idea of the glass because it seemed more versatile. I already have several large glass baking dishes, but the idea of the smaller sizes opened the door for a lot of different uses.

So far, I’ve used these for freezing ground meats with really great results. These, and many others similar to these, have a silicone band under a plastic snap on lid (yes, it is still plastic, but if cared for well, should last for a really long time) that creates a seal between the glass and the lid.

Glass Food Storage Containers - Silicone Seal
Glass Food Storage Containers – Silicone Seal

I’ve also used them to to store and freeze deli meats (worked better than I expected) and a couple of other things that I’m leaving in for a while to see how well they do over longer periods of time. I do think they have a slightly shorter freezer life in these than if they were in plastic wrapped packages or plastic bags, but I’m not certain yet by how much. Wrapping things inside something like parchment paper (biodegradable) before putting into the glass containers may be able to add some time to that number, though.

Outside of the freezer, these can be used in a huge number of ways. In the refrigerator, oven, microwave (minus the lid for oven and microwave) and to seal off just about anything you need to store. The fact that there are so many different sizes and shapes when it comes to glass containers, the sky is kind of the limit. These particular containers are geared for food prepping and say they are 34 ounce volume (assuming liquid). They are slightly on the large size for what my Hubby uses for his lunch leftovers, but will be in the mix for him to use as they still fit in a lunchbox.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some common plastic zipper bag uses as well as some plastic wrap. Excellent replacement for any reusable plastic storage as well.

Pros:

  • Eliminates some plastic wrap/bag use
  • Reusable
  • Microwave, Oven, Freezer, Dishwasher Safe (minus lids on all except freezer and storage)
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Comes in a variety of size options for versatility
  • Potential long lifespan

Cons:

  • Is not a 1 to 1 replacement for any single use plastic. You will need other alternatives for other types of uses.
  • These are glass, therefore breakable, but not easily (most have good warranties against breakage)
  • You are limited on using and cleaning the lids because of both the plastic and the silicone.
  • Most recommend hand washing the lid because of the silicone seal (even needing to remove the seal to dry)
  • Some recommend keeping a layer of plastic between the seal and glass (have only seen this on one type so far) when not in use.
  • Physical space needed to store when not in use
  • Plastic lids
  • Potentially shorter freezer life for foods
  • Cost

So far, these have been some of my favorite alternatives because they are so versatile. I have a different set that I’m in the process of testing as a potential replacement option for frozen microwave dinners (post coming soon on that). While cost on these will be a concern for some, if they are well maintained and cared for, they should last for a very long time. I will say, I like the way these lids work better than others. That and the fact that they are plastic make the lids a weak point for me. Another upside is that lidded glassware like this is more likely to be readily available. Maybe not these specific ones, but others that would work just as well.

If I had one really harsh gripe on these at all, it would be that in all the sets I’ve purchased (3 small ones so far), every single one comes coated in a layer of plastic film and a massive amount of foam.

Book Review: The Body Keeper, Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries – Book #3

Author: Anne Frasier
Book Name: The Body Keeper
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Series: Detective Jude Fontaine Mysteries
Order: #3
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Crime
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: A boy’s frozen body is found trapped in the ice of a Minneapolis lake. The horrifying discovery leads Detective Jude Fontaine and her partner, Uriah Ashby, to more bodies in the ice, all of twelve-year-old boys missing for twenty years.

Then, in one of the worst blizzards the city has ever seen, a four-year-old is abandoned on Jude’s doorstep. The child can’t tell them where he’s from, who his parents are, or how he got there. He doesn’t even know his name.

But in his unspoken language, Jude reads something horrifying—a connection to the dead boys. Now a four-year-old with no name may be the only key to a twenty-year-old, very cold case.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

This is a series that I really enjoy, but has tiny bits here and there that keep me from loving it and keeps it off my favorites list. This book fits the mold of the previous two books.

I really love Jude’s character and seeing how her past trauma and damage shape who she is today and the choices she makes. It is one of the the things I like the most about this series. I like the fact that this book breaks down some of the barriers she’s put up in the past. It keeps her feeling very real and human.

The pieces I’m not a huge fan of are the extreme levels of evil that the bad guys always seem to hit. That and the crazy, twisty levels of coincidence take a bit of a ding for me when it comes to rating. This book had just a few too many. The story is really great without those coincidences, could have definitely stood amazingly on its own without them and I would have absolutely loved it, but the addition of those took a bit of the shine off in a couple of areas.

The one coincidence and twist I saw coming from the beginning and I’m good with that one. It is going to make things interesting moving forward and getting to see how Jude copes with it.

 

Christmas In July

Anyone that has followed this blog for any length of time already knows about my crazy nutcracker collection and that my Hubby feeds this every year by getting me a new one, usually based on a theme for the year. He cracked me up beyond belief earlier in the month when he decided to start hunting for this year’s nutcracker early to make sure he got one that fit what he wanted for his theme this year. A nutcracker that represents me publishing my book and becoming an author.

What makes this even funnier is that my Hubby cannot hold on to surprises. At all. So when he manages to actually find one and get it ordered? It sits for about 2 days before he can’t stand it anymore and then it is suddenly Christmas in July.

Charles Dickens Nutcracker
Charles Dickens Nutcracker

I’m in love! It is so perfect.

One of the things I love about how my Hubby does this is that I never know exactly what I’m going to get. I kind of guessed what his theme for the year would be, but since I don’t ever go out looking at nutcrackers myself unless I happen to see them when I’m out around Christmas, I don’t know what kinds of possibilities are even out there. It’s always a surprise. Most of what I have would fall into the traditional range, but I have a wide range of traditional to modern to unique to completely off the wall wacky. This one falls more along the lines of a traditional nutcracker, but because it has a specific theme, it only hangs on the edge of traditional.

One of the things I love about this one is that it does have that classic feel to it, but still isn’t. The details on the books give it so much more, but it is still simple and elegant. I adore that this has a nameplate.

Sadly, my new guy got packed back into his box to wait for the holidays so he can go on display with the rest of the horde.

Book Review: Year One, Chronicles of the One – Book #1

Author: Nora Roberts
Book Name: Year One
Release Date: December 5, 2017
Series: Chronicles of the One
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Science Fiction/Distopian
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she share with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most. As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

This book actually fell pretty far outside of my normal reading genres as I rarely ever read dystopian or science fiction (just not my thing). I had honestly expected a lot more of this to be on the fantasy/magical end of the spectrum and is why I picked it up, but at this point in the larger story arc of this series, you really haven’t gotten a whole lot of it.

When it comes to believability in a story, you can get away with a lot more when it is because of magic and this book’s main premise is based on that fact, otherwise there would be some issues with how so many of the world’s population died. The basis does work, but it stretches to get there. The magical aspects fall on the flimsy side of things for me because there is never much explanation behind it. I get that much of that is supposed to come later in the series storyline, but it leaves readers in this place where they are expected to believe in it just because they are told to without any kind of foundation to support it.

There were some characters I really liked, that came across as layered and interesting, but I struggled with Lana’s character. She just kind of came across as a bit… not flighty exactly, but the dreamy sighs attitude of “It was meant” seemed a bit repetitive and too much, as though she really wasn’t fully grounded in the horror of the world around her. Max wasn’t much better.

For the most part, I felt the story was interesting and I was invested in where it was going. Then you get this shift and things change. Suddenly every character that the reader has been introduced to gets dropped off the page. I kept expecting to get back to some of their perspectives, but it never happens. When I finally got to the end, I was kind of wondering what the point was of getting anything at all from their perspective in the first place. You get all these threads of their stories and then they are all just dropped.

The final piece that really kept this from being a really good story for me was how the last 1/4 or so of the book wraps up and the events in that wrap up. I’m not going to go into spoiler levels here, but lets just say it really did not work for me when it came to character relationships.

I have the next book on my TBR, but I have a feeling it is is going to be one that I keep setting aside in favor of other books I’d much rather read.

Book Review: Unspoken Vow, Steele Brothers – Book #2

Author: Eden Finley
Book Name: Unspoken Vow
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Series: Steele Brothers
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/LQBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: 𝙃𝙚’𝙨 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙄 𝙬𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙧𝙪𝙣 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢.

There’s a long list of things I don’t handle well:
Change.
Relationships.
Breakups.

But there’s one person above everything else I can’t seem to get a handle on.
𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦.

In short, he’s perfect. The reality, he scares me.He’s the opposite of what I usually go for. He’s bigger. Intimidating. He reminds me of someone I’d rather forget.

When I need to find a new place to live, Brody offers me his spare room, but I have no plans on taking him up on the offer. He doesn’t know what happened to me five years ago, and I want to keep it that way.But with limited options, I find myself outside his apartment holding a full moving box and wondering: How can I do this without exposing the darkest part of my past?

**𝘜𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘝𝘰𝘸 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭-𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘵𝘩 𝘔𝘔 𝘯𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘭 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 a 𝘏𝘍𝘕/𝘏𝘌𝘈 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴. 𝘗𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘬 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳.**

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Unwritten Law, so when I saw that this had been released, I was really excited. This is a sweet romance that delves into some really heavy emotional issues and it does so in an incredible way without getting too heavy or dark.

I think this book does an amazing job of dealing with and showing the emotional fallout from both physical and emotional trauma. It does so from a very realistic and human perspective without falling into preaching or educating about mental health while still telling an incredible story. The serious aspects are balanced against the right amount of humor and sweetness.

The utter lack of perfection in working out the relationship issues in this book is probably one of the things I like the most. Anders doesn’t suddenly and magically become “fixed” just because he gets into a relationship with Brody, but rather they work on their issues knowing that it will always be a thing they need to work on. That kind of realism when dealing with the emotional issues in this book is what really clenched how much I liked this.

There was one part that bounced up against a typical romance trope that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but even that was handled well enough to not really take too much from my enjoyment of the rest of the story.

If you like emotionally fragile characters that fight to not be so fragile, who are really at heart way more and way stronger than simply fragile, and the loved ones that help them in that fight, then you really need to read this one.

Book Review: The Marriage Lie – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Marriage Lie
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Even the perfect marriage has its dark side… 

Iris and Will’s marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I was really excited to read this after having read Dear Wife and loving it (yes, even though this one came out first) hoping it was just as intense. Instead, this was kind of an emotional roller coaster of a story for me. It really pricked some of my personal emotions with regards to flying, so those aspects of the story were pretty profound and I loved that it was able to do that. I felt the same with the intensely realistic expression of grief. Those aspects of this were amazingly written. But those were counteracted by an extremely drawn out issue dancing around the believability at the core of this story.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

If Will was alive, how did that work? How did he know that plane would crash so he could use it as his cover? Those bits never quite made sense and there were so many questions tied around this issue that I struggled with belief throughout this whole story. It kind of tainted pieces for me. One of the biggest questions is that if anyone truly believed he was alive, then why did not one single character ask or even bring up the possibility that Will caused the crash? This issue and all the potentials and questions surrounding it do get wrapped up at the very end of the story. But by then it felt more like a plot hole than an unresolved issue because it was left open and unaddressed for so long, even if it really wasn’t. Even the resolution you get feels flimsy at best.

I was torn in all directions on how Iris was reacting to everything  surrounding what she learns about Will and her choices about how to deal with that information. For the most part, it works for me because that confusion is understandable from a human emotion standpoint, but it was still difficult to take some of that extreme emotional chaos in when it lasted the entire length of the book.

The way the story wrapped up, with a sort of resolution with gaping holes because we are left in this single moment and nothing past that to fill those final holes, was really unsatisfying. Especially after an already emotionally tumultuous story. No, you don’t always have to wrap up every thread and answer every single question, but I really prefer cleaner endings than this one so I’m left with a story that only hits the good mark, rather than the really good or great mark.

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars

There is something about the stark simplicity of this cover that is just really appealing to me. It’s a great example in the form of cover art that sometimes, less is more.

 

Book Review: Demon Magic and A Martini, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #4

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Demon Magic and A Martini
Release Date: April 12, 2019
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #4
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When I first landed a bartending job at the local guild, I didn’t know a thing about magic. These days, I’m practically an expert on the different magical classes, but there’s one nobody ever talks about: Demonica.

Turns out they have a good reason for that.

My guild is strictly hellion-free, but some people will risk life and soul to control the biggest bullies on the mythic playground. And now a demon has been loosed in the city.

My three best friends are determined to slay it, but even badass combat mages are critically out-magicked. And that’s not all. The monster they’re tracking–it’s not hiding. It’s not fleeing. It’s not leaving a trail of corpses everywhere it goes.

The demon is hunting too. And in a city full of mythics, it’s searching for deadlier prey.

If we can’t unravel the demon’s sinister motivations, more innocent people will die, but finding the answers means digging into dark secrets … and learning truths I never wanted to know.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

Wow. This one got way more intense and serious than the previous books. You still get doses of that fun, funny, snarkiness that has been something of a hallmark for all the books up to this point, but not nearly the amount as before.

If I had to say that any of the guys got a book, this one would be Ezra’s. You learn a lot about him, his powers and his history in this. And some of that is pretty intense in a way I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it in the series going forward.

I’m even more iffy on how there is now this jumping attraction thing going on from Tori with the guys. This isn’t a reverse harem story and isn’t classified as romance in any of the genre tags, but there is definitely attraction and flirting in the previous books. Now we are seeing the object of that attraction shifting onto another guy in the group, making Tori’s character start to seem a little flighty where she hasn’t been so far, which is a little disappointing as I’ve loved pretty much everything about her character up until now.

This is still a really good story, but I have my concerns about the direction it may take in future books. So far, this really hasn’t felt like a NA/YA book, even if the character ages fit the genre, but some of the ways I see this potentially going will bring some of my least favorite elements that genre into this series.

Plastic Free July – Part 2: Plastic Wrap Alternative #1

When looking at the plastic I used, I tried to find the areas I used the most plastic that gets thrown away. For me, that happens in my kitchen, so my initial goal has been working on reducing that waste first. With the amount of cooking I do, there is always plastic that ends up in the trash that isn’t recyclable. Something I realized, is that I use a lot of plastic wrap, so finding something to replace that has been one of my focus areas. Sadly, I have yet to find something that is a direct, one to one use replacement because I use it for so many things.

Common Uses:

  • Covering Dishes
  • Wrapping Leftovers
  • Wrapping Food for Freezer Storage (partial layer)

Uncommon Uses:

  • Wrapping around meat when tenderizing to prevent splatter and excess damage
  • Rolling out pie dough between layers to prevent sticking to surface and for easy transfer
  • Easy clean up for icing decorator bags (trick I learned to keep it less messy in use and clean up)
  • Covering rising bread dough bowls (holds in warmth and helps rise better while keeping dough moist)

I’m sure there are loads more that I’m forgetting or ways other people use plastic wraps. Because there are so many different ways to use it, there really isn’t a single replacement for it. At least, not one I’ve found.

The most common use, covering and wrapping food or leftovers, has a few different alternative options. The first one, and the focus of this post (another alternative option coming soon) is beeswax wrap. It is basically a biodegradable fabric that is coated in beeswax. It comes in several different forms and is reusable to a point. Once it reaches that point, everything in it is organic and can be put in the trash or compost.

To test these out to see how well I liked them and how many ways I could use them in place of plastic wrap, I bought these sets that had 3 different size squares in each packet.

Beeswax Wraps
Beeswax Wraps

The largest size is big enough to cover a standard size dinner plate, so you are limited on what you can use these for. You can get a roll of it and cut it to size, but I didn’t want to make that investment (again, not exactly inexpensive) if I wasn’t going to like them.

The way these work is beeswax is somewhat pliable and softens with the heat from your hands. It is also on the slightly sticky side so it clings to itself and whatever you are covering. When used correctly, it does create a liquid tight seal. You can cover dishes or even directly on food as it sticks really well to itself. You simply rinse it in cold, soapy water after each use and hang it to dry before storing it.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some common plastic wrap uses

Pros:

  • Eliminates some plastic wrap use
  • Reusable
  • Biodegradable
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Comes in a variety of size options for versatility

Cons:

  • Is not a 1 to 1 replacement for plastic wrap. You will need other alternatives for other types of uses.
  • Beeswax is sticky and can leave a residue on whatever you cover, including your hands, and isn’t always easy to get off (my experience is with glass).
  • Because of the way you have to clean this, cold water, I would be hesitant to use this in covering raw meats. I haven’t attempted to use any kind of a bleach solution, so I don’t know if that is an effective disinfectant method. Using hot water will melt the wax and either reduce the lifespan or make it completely unusable.
  • Limited longevity: I haven’t had these all that long so I’m not certain of their lifespan, but they will need to be replaced over time.
  • Does not stretch, so there is a bit of a learning curve if you are used to stretchy plastics.
  • Seems to not hold in odors as well as plastic.
  • Cost: Like most other plastic alternatives, these are not inexpensive. Since they do have a specific lifespan, that may make these cost prohibitive for some.
  • Questionable on freezer use: I haven’t attempted this trial. The fact that this will stiffen in colder temps because of the beeswax, I would think there may be some issues with the sealing function of these in freezing conditions.

I haven’t quite decided whether I like this alternative or not. The limited use is an issue for me, so is the stickiness. I’ve debated getting the roll as most of my need for these is larger in size than these packs provided, so I’ve struggled to fully test these out.

I think this is one of those products that some people will really love and others won’t, depending on how they use it. It IS a viable alternative for some common plastic wrap uses and in a one use plastic throw away versus a multi use biodegradable, the biodegradable still lands you on the better side of things.

 

Book Review: Two Witches and A Whiskey, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #3

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Two Witches and A Whiskey
Release Date: February 8, 2019
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #3
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Three months ago, I landed a job as a bartender. But not at a bar—at a guild. Yeah, the magic kind.

I’m not a badass mage like my three smokin’ hot best friends. I’m not a sorcerer or an alchemist, or even a wussy witch. I’m just a human, slinging drinks like a pro and keeping my non-magical nose out of mythic business. Seriously, I know my limits.

So why am I currently standing in a black-magic ritual circle across from a fae lord?

Somewhere behind me, my three mage friends are battling for their lives. Somewhere near my feet is the rogue witch I just knocked out with a stolen spell. And I have about five seconds to convince this very angry sea god not to shmoosh me like a bug.

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t part of the job description.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I’m still loving these books. I’m sadly at that point with reviews, though, where I feel like I’m going to be saying all the same things. I love Tori’s character. I love that she is special because she kind of isn’t. I love the guys. I love how they have this amazing friendship between them all. I’m still loving the world and how it works. This fits all of those, same as the previous books.

Of the first three books, this one delves just a little deeper into Tori’s need to fit in. I like seeing this aspect of her character. I’m a little worried that after this book she is going to lose some of what I’ve liked about her up to this point, the pieces that made her stand out from the other characters, so I’m anxious to see where that overarching thread goes in the next books. It also has a couple of scenes that were super sweet and touching, which was a nice shift from either funny or intense.

So, yes. Still enjoying the hell out of these and hope they continue to be just as fun as the first three.

Book Review: Dark Arts and a Daiquiri, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book #2

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Dark Arts and a Daiquiri
Release Date: November 18, 2018
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #2
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When I found myself facing down the scariest black-magic felon in the city, practically daring him to abduct me, I had to wonder exactly how I ended up here.

It all started when I accidentally landed a job as a bartender—but not at a bar. At a guild, populated by mages, sorcerers, alchemists, witches, and psychics. Good thing this lame-o human is adaptable, right?

Then my favorite guild members—three sexy, powerful, and intermittently charming mages—asked for my help. Did they want access to my encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails? Oh no. They wanted to wrap me up in a pretty ribbon and plunk me in the crosshairs of a murderous rogue to lure him out of hiding.

So that’s what we did. And that’s why I’m here. About to be kidnapped. Oh, and our grand plan for safely capturing said murderous rogue? Yeah, that completely fell apart about two minutes ago.

Why did I agree to this again?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Series Expectations: 3.5/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was another fun read that I really enjoyed.

When things first got going, I was a little worried and disappointed as it looked like we weren’t going to see much, if any, page time from the guys from the guild in the last book, which was really disappointing. It took a little bit, but I got over that and got into learning about a couple of new characters that I really hope to see again in later books.

I loved getting to learn more about the magical world in this series. It has a few typical things for this genre, but it also steps outside of the typical in many other ways, which was exciting. I like the newness of that, though I feel like there were certain aspects that didn’t get clarified to my liking.

You still get some attitude from Tori, but you don’t see it nearly as much in this book as the last one and I missed that. One of the things I love the most about the first book was her snark and sass and that was toned down quite a bit in this one.

It was still a really good book and I’m off to the next one!

 

 

Book Review: Three Mages and A Margarita, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book 1

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Three Mages and A Margarita
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig.

It went downhill the moment they asked me to do a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete dickheads, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right?

I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they… offered me the job?

It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here.

So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

This was such a fun and exciting read! It was cute and funny and intense. While there are typical elements found in a lot of other books in this genre, this one felt a little new and different from what I normally see.

One of those differences, and probably one of my favorites, is that our main character isn’t some magical badass hero. She is a human that stumbles into the magical side of this world. She doesn’t have any special powers, unless you consider snark and smartass to be super powers (which I kinda do). She is also bold and gutsy. Powers or no, she can hold her own, which I really enjoyed.

The guys are also funny, but not class clowns that can’t take things seriously, a deadly combination when it comes to character personalities in my book. While they are magical badasses to some extent, they aren’t invincible, their best being when they work together.

Another thing that I really loved about this was that, while there were all kinds of flirty teasing going on, this wasn’t an overblown romance. There is definitely some interest going on, but that isn’t the focus of the story. I love a good romance in a book, but it is nice every once in a while to see something a little different.

I enjoyed this so much I’ve already got the next one in the series cued up and ready to go.

 

 

 

Book Review: Tethered to the World, Phantom Touched – Book 1

Author: Stacey Brutger
Book Name: Tethered to the World
Release Date: June 19, 2019
Series: Phantom Touched
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/Reverse Harem
Overall SPA: 3.5
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: ONE TOUCH CAN SAVE YOU FROM CERTAIN DEATH…OR SENTENCE YOU TO AN ETERNITY IN HELL.

Born with the ability to defy death, Annora has been warned to keep her gift secret, but her greedy uncle can’t resist exploiting her by any means necessary. Starvation, beatings, broken bones–she’s survived them all and emerged stronger. But it’s not enough for him. It will never be enough. When she discovers her uncle plans to sell her to the highest bidder, she risks everything to escape the prison that has become her life.

The last thing she expected was to land at a university for supernaturals…or be paired with a pack of men as broken as her. As students go missing, Annora can’t get over the suspicion that she’s being hunted. To protect her, the guys must set aside their personal troubles and begin working as a team. But as her past collides with her present, she must make the ultimate sacrifice and expose her secrets to save the guys who’ve become more than family to her…and hope she’s strong enough to live with the consequences.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

A couple of areas got dinged in this for me. One is the missing genre tags on Amazon. This was not marked as being a Reverse Harem. Yes, I really should have picked that up from the blurb, but didn’t. I also should have checked Goodreads as it does have that tag there, so this is only a small ding. The other missing tag is the new adult tag. I’m also not giving this a heavy ding with that because you don’t actually know the ages of the guys, but Annora is mentioned as being 20 and this has a college like setting, though that isn’t the bulk of the plot. This skirts the edges of that tag, but it still kind of applies.

The other one, and this one is a big one for me as it is a massive peeve of mine, is that this ends in a huge cliffhanger. More times than not, I will avoid books with a cliffhanger because they tick me off. Especially when it is a new book and the other books in the series haven’t even been written yet as is the case with this book. I have no problems with continuing story arcs across a series, but I need each book in that series to have an encapsulated story that gets wrapped up in each book. Or at least comes to a clean end. This is one great big cliff to hang on to, which really irritated me as I did really enjoy the rest of the book.

Even though I haven’t been a huge fan of reverse harem books in the past, this one was done pretty well so far. There aren’t a lot of games played within the group. None of the typical teeny-bopper-angsty drama. I did tend to get confused early on as to which one of the guys was which. There were a couple of times I was certain the wrong name was used in referring to one of the guys. The characters are decently mature, intelligent and likable (loved Mason) and I loved their different shifters and abilities.

I am a bit of a sucker for shifter type stories and even more so when they aren’t all the typical shifters. You absolutely get the not typical in this, which was a really refreshing take on that theme, with the exception of the wolves being on the stereotypical side as the mostly bad guys.

I’m not a huge fan of the college like setting as it isn’t something I typically enjoy and, so far, that setting hasn’t really been justified. There isn’t much of an actual purpose to it, which makes it even less appealing to me. Past that and the issues I mentioned above, I enjoyed the story and the interesting shifters and characters. I mostly enjoyed the world being built here, but there isn’t enough of it to really understand it yet.

Will I read the next book in the series? Probably, but depending on where it goes, it would be just as easy for me to drop it after that.

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars

I thought this cover was really pretty and I love the effect it creates. I probably like the cover way more than I like the book.